Mulching for long-term soil improvement?
I have a wacky and probably stupid idea to improve my poorly-drained, compacted clay soil with little money and effort. If I'm being stupid here, please call me out.
We just moved into a newly-built home this summer. The builder put sod in the front yard, but for the sides and back they just seeded and spread straw. The seed didn't really take in most of that area. The soil is heavy clay and was terribly compacted during construction, and the lot is pretty flat. So there's a drainage problem, plus the soil is very low in organic matter (based on visual inspection, not testing). When it rains, the whole yard (other than where sod was placed) turns into sticky mush and stays that way for days. The lot does have some slope to it, so it's not an impossible drainage situation; I think it's mostly the soil that's causing the problem. And until I fix the soil I don't think I'm going to get grass growing.
There are a lot of ways to fix this. Most of them cost money and/or effort. My idea is to get a truckload of wood chips from a tree company (hopefully free) and spread them over the troubled parts of the yard, to a depth of 2" or so. Then let that decompose for a few years, during which I have the benefit of not having to mow those areas, and the mulch itself should drain reasonably well. After the chips are getting pretty well broken down (2 years? 5 years?), I'd start adding organic nitrogen (probably from coffee grounds -- free!) plus some compost and/or compost tea and seed it.
So, why is that stupid, other than taking a long time?